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Shattering Stigma surrounding Mental Health in the Film Industry

Updated: Jan 15

In the mysterious, glamorous world of film sets, lights and celebrity, the film industry is often seen as a place where creativity and success thrive. However, behind the scenes, stigma around mental health has been left to thrive. This has a devastating impact on cast and crew. There has been found to be high rates of mental health difficulties in the film industry compared to the general population.

The rates of mental health difficulties within this industry are shocking. 'The Looking Glass Report' carried out by the Film and Television Charity in 2022 found that 55% of respondents had experienced suicidal thoughts in the last year and 87% had experienced mental health difficulties. 64% reported experiencing depression in the last year compared to a national average of 42%. There were significantly lower levels of subjective wellbeing that the national average. This was before the difficulties the industry has faced in 2023 with the writers and actor’s strike.

If we think about this, it means that on a film production of any kind most people would have experienced or will be experiencing a mental health difficulty. These statistics whilst shocking hopefully make those experiencing mental health difficulties in the film industry feel less alone and more likely to seek help. Next time you are at work think about how these statistics might apply to the set you’re on. How might this impact how you behave to others at work?

film industry mental health stigma

Before we delve deeper into the topic lets take a moment to think about what mental health stigma is. Mental health stigma involves negative beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes towards mental health.

Stigma of mental health difficulties can involve the following:

Stereotypes- Unfairly labelling people with mental health difficulties with generalisations or misconceived ideas that often fuel negative attitudes towards mental health helps maintain stigma. For example, a common stereotype is depression is just sadness. This minimises the experiences and complexity of depression. Depression is more than sadness and can have a huge impact on someone’s day to day functioning.

Avoidance- Negative beliefs about mental health difficulties can lead to fear of people experiencing mental health difficulties which can contribute to people feeling isolated. This avoidance can lead to people not reaching out to others to offer support and further fuels mental health stigma.

Discrimination- Individuals with mental health difficulties may face biased treatment including not being offered the same opportunities in their career as others.

Blame- People may be blamed for their struggles or blamed for seeking help. This means people may avoid talking about mental health difficulties which further fuels stigma.

Reducing mental health stigma is crucial for starting to change the culture in the film industry.

mental health stigma film industry

So how have such high levels of stigma been free to build in the film industry?

Stigma discourages people from seeking help

Stigma can discourage people from seeking help for fear of how this could be perceived. There may be a fear of the impact seeking help might have on your career. Its easy for new people coming into the industry to see the norm as not seeking help and speaking about mental health difficulties and the cycle continues. People at all levels speaking about mental health difficulties if they feel safe to do so will lessen stigma around mental health difficulties and start discussions about how to improve mental health within the film industry.

Taking actions that signal that you are there for people who experience mental health difficulties will also break the stigma. For example having mental health helpline numbers on call sheets helps normalise seeking this support as it signals that the Heads of Departments know people may need this help and will support this. These actions over time will reduce stigma.


Signs of mental Health difficulties often get overlooked.

The high pressures in the film industry of getting the perfect product can often mean peoples mental health gets overlooked. Common signs that people may be experiencing a mental health difficulty including people turning up late, irritability, difficulty making decisions and difficulty concentrating in this high pressured environment may not be seen through the lens of mental health difficulties and the support not offered. Or at worst people may face discrimination.

Its worth stopping and pausing and asking what someone might be going through and then thinking about how to support someone. This will help break the stigma associated with mental health in the film industry.

Self Stigma

Self stigma is when we start to believe the attitudes in the film industry that stigmatise mental health difficulties so we start to judge ourselves and others for experiencing mental health difficulties. This can have a devastating impact on self-esteem and motivation and may prevent people from seeking help.

Narrative of glamour

The image of the film industry as a glamourous exciting one can discourage people from speaking out about the less glamourous side.

People are starting to discuss mental health within the film industry. This over time will reduce the stigma. We know that what helps productions be their most successful is to focus on wellbeing. This may feel contradictory, but it really works. People with good mental health are more creative and productive. See this article for more details on this topic.

mental health stigma film industry

What can help change this:

Talking about mental health difficulties.

As mention above the more people talk about mental health the more it makes talking about mental health the norm and breaks stigma.

Providing accurate information on mental health difficulties- This challenges stereotypes and makes people better at spotting the signs of mental health difficulties so they can offer support. This does not mean you have to be a trained mental health therapist. This just means understanding what symptoms might relate to mental health difficulties and knowing that GPs and charities including Mind are a good starter in signposting people to gain help.

Cultures of acceptance and inclusion.

Inclusion means creating an environment where everyone feels they belong, and they don’t have to change the way they dress or act to fit in. Think about what you can do to make the environment inclusive? What socials will meet most peoples needs? Or is it varying the activities of social events.

Ensuring the films we create does not fuel negative stereotypes of mental health.

Films that portray accurately mental health difficulties have the power to break down stereotypes.

Sometimes tackling stigma and changing the culture of an industry can feel overwhelming. Remember small actions drive change e.g. asking someone how they are and really listening.

Here at Creatives in Mind we offer mental health therapy with fully qualified experienced therapist who understand the pressures of the film industry. We offer workshops and project consultation which can help explore topics including tackling stigma. If you want support starting to tackle mental health in the Film Industry please do not hesitate to contact us.

Together we will work to reduce stigma in the film industry.

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